Student Debt Control: A Guide

Student Debt Control: A Guide

QS Staff Writer

Updated January 24, 2022 Updated January 24

No one wants to graduate from university with a huge student debt. Follow these top tips to keep your debt under control.

1. Plan ahead

This might sound obvious, but do spend some time considering your finances BEFORE you actually start your course. The sooner you start asking questions and getting an idea of the options available to you, the better. Talk to your parents, other students, and advisors at the university, to get an idea of:

a)      The costs you’ll need to cover (tuition fees, accommodation, living expenses)

b)      Options available to help you cover them (savings, loans, scholarships, grants, part-time work).

2. Create a budget

Once you’ve got a better idea of the costs and how much funding is likely to be available to you, the next stage is to figure out a way of making them match!

You may find it helpful to create a weekly budget for yourself, setting out how much you can afford to spend on things like food, social events and travel.

Then once you start your course, try to keep track (at least approximately) of how much you’re ACTUALLY spending on each of these things. If you find you’re spending twice as much on food as you originally planned, why is that? Could you spend less, or do you need to try and cut costs elsewhere?

3. Cut costs, sensibly

If you do need to cut down on your spending, make sure you think it through and prioritise sensibly. For example, you probably don’t need a new outfit for every single Friday night – but you do need more than bread and jam in your diet. Basically, make sure you’re cutting costs on items that could be described as ‘luxuries’ first, not things you need to stay well!

Also remember to make use of student discounts and offers – but again, be sensible about this. If you were planning on buying something anyway, then great – but don’t get tricked into spending money on things you don’t really need just because there’s an ‘offer you can’t refuse’!

4. Seek help sooner rather than later

If you’ve tried to adjust your budget and you’re still spending more than you can afford, seek help sooner, rather than just waiting until you’ve got a pile of angry letters from the bank.

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to speak to family members first, to see if they can help. You may also want to consider finding a part-time job – though make sure this isn’t at the cost of having enough time and energy to do justice to your studies.

In addition, remember that the university should have advisors who are there to help students overcome any financial difficulties. They may be able to help you access hardship or emergency funding, or point you in the direction of on-campus employment opportunities or give advice about the best way of obtaining a loan if necessary.

Likewise, speak to your bank at the first sign of trouble. Again, they may be able to provide some useful advice, and will be more sympathetic if you take a proactive approach rather than ignoring the problem.

5. Consider the type of debt

For many students nowadays, incurring some type of debt is an inevitable part of going to university. However, before you do borrow any money, think about the best place to get a loan from – and again, seek as much advice as you can before signing anything.

In many countries, domestic students are able to take out loans from a designated national student loans scheme, which have the benefits of being very low-interest, and repayable only when the individual is earning enough to do so.

These schemes may not be available to international students, so speak to advisors both in your home country and your chosen study destination, to get a good idea of the best options for you.

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in January 2020